This past weekend our family went on a retreat with the BSCD. It was our annual regional gathering. We had it at St. Leo Abbey in St. Leo, Florida. It is always good to get together, reconnect with other like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ and encounter the Lord together. It was a powerful time and the Holy Spirit definitely showed up and blessed us!
The Lord started speaking to me right off the bat when we arrived. We were letting our children run around on the beautiful monastery grounds before we went up to our room. My five year old daughter was enjoying herself at first but then she kept encountering bugs which were scary to her. She asked me, "Mom, why are there so many bugs here?" I told her it was because there was a lot of nature and bugs like nature. I then said to her,"Just focus on the nature and don't pay attention to the bugs." Immediately I knew the Lord was speaking to me. So often in life I pay more attention to little annoyances, frustrations and objects of stress in my life rather than the beauty and blessings around me. By doing this, I rob myself of joy.
Another way I think we rob ourselves of joy is by choosing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life. We get caught up in what we should or should not be doing instead of making it our main goal to encounter Christ and rest in his love for us.
Saturday afternoon we had time for worship and the Lord showed me an image to share. It was of a big, bright red, fully ripe strawberry hanging from a tree. It was so ripe it was dripping with juice. I knew the strawberry represented the heart of Jesus. I heard the Lord say, "Pick from the choicest of fruit which is love! Taste and see that the Lord is good! Then go out and give this love away to those who do not know about my love!" The word was full of emotion as I experienced the Lord's heart for his people. This word also went right along with what the Lord has been showing me over the last few months. We can be doing all the right things, keeping up with our responsibilities and even having a daily prayer life but if our main goal isn't to actually encounter Jesus and experience his love for us every day then life ends up feeling burdensome and lacking joy.
Last week Pope Francis tweeted, "Each encounter with Jesus fills us with joy, with that deep joy which only God can give."
Nehemiah 8:10 says, "The joy of the Lord is our strength."
Encountering Christ and his love everyday is how we eat from the tree of life. This is what gives us joy and propels us forward with the strength we need. It is this joy that will attract others to Christ and our way of life.